Atomic Power Plant Illustration
At this point two questions are apt to arise. The first is: After all, what is the essential difference between the direct act of destroying, or that of departing to leave the person to die? In both cases it is God’s action which brings about the destruction and therefore, in each case, He is a destroyer.
This would be true if God’s withdrawal was His own act, but it is not. The fact is that He is driven away. Think of the way in which Christ went to Calvary. He was taken there forcibly. This shows in its clearest terms man’s reaction toward the loving appeals of God. Man drives God away, depriving Him of any possibility of remaining unless He forces His presence, which the Lord will never do.
For those who are prepared to believe that God never puts forth His hands to destroy, yet consider that His act of withdrawing in the full knowledge of what that will mean, makes Him a destroyer just the same, the following illustration is given. This will show the distinct difference between merely withdrawing and being forced to withdraw. It will show that even in His withdrawing it is not God who is responsible for the disasters which follow.
Let us suppose that there is an atomic power plant located in the midst of a small township of two thousand people. The nature of this power plant is such that an operator must continually be in the control room to monitor the controls. Should this post be left unattended for several hours or more, the nuclear fission will run out of control and blossom into a holocaust of destruction.
The situation arises where every technician but one is taken away and the full responsibility rests upon this man. No one else in the whole area has the training, knowledge, or skill, to operate this volatile equipment.
This creates no special problem, for the man is healthy, very conscientious, and does his work with great faithfulness day and night. He is able to take sufficient rest between check times to enable him to carry on indefinitely.
But, there enters the area an arch-enemy of the technician who determines to run him out of town. To accomplish this, he circulates lying reports until a hate complex is generated among the villagers. They begin to persecute the technician in every imaginable way with increasing intensity. For a very long time he patiently endures the attacks in the hope that they will subside and with the realization that if he does forsake his post it will be disastrous for the village.
Finally his patience runs out. “I have had enough of this,” he cries. “I have gone the second and the third mile. These people have shown that they do not deserve to live. I am leaving.”
Whereupon he walks out of the control room and drives far away. Several hours elapse and he is safe beyond the reach of the explosion when it occurs. The village and all in it are utterly destroyed.
While it is true that in a certain sense the villagers destroyed themselves, it is equally true that this technician destroyed them for he left them knowing that his departure would bring those sure and certain results. This is the picture which many have of God.
The situation faced by this man is the same as that faced by God. He is the great “Technician” who is in charge of the power house of nature. When He lets go of those powers, there is no one else who can control them and keep them from exploding in a horror of destruction. An enemy has come in and a hate complex has been generated against God.
Many believe this truth and then see God coming to the end of His patience, as in our illustration, and voluntarily withdrawing to leave men to perish in the cataclysm of destruction which inevitably follows.
If this is the true picture of God, then, unquestionably, we would have to agree that He is, after all, a destroyer.
But it is not. God is a very different person from this.
Let us retell the story as it would provide a true picture of God’s character.
Here is the same technician, the same control room, the same situation, the same village and the same enemy stirring up trouble.
This time the technician never thinks of leaving. No matter what they do to him, all he can see is their situation. He knows that if he leaves them, they will all be dead men so he stays on. His patience is not in question for he is not thinking of himself at all.
But the persecution becomes more and more intense until the people begin to demand that he go. He protests that if he does, they will perish and for their sakes, not his own, he desires to stay. They, in their hateful blindness, being ignorant of their real danger and over-confident of their own ability to handle the control room anyway, laugh derisively at him and shout for his departure.
With deepest concern for them he holds on and fulfils his work as faithfully as ever. Every time he thinks of them, a pang of fear and pain sweeps through him, and he considers most earnestly how he can win their love and confidence so that he might preserve them alive. Not one thought is for himself—every thought is for them and their need.
But every day they become more hateful and violent until they invade the control room and angrily shout at him to leave. They jostle him out through the door and down to his car. They put him into it and direct him to drive away. There is no choice left. Slowly, he drives out of the village and mounts the first hill beyond. He stops the car, climbs out and looks back toward the angry knot of people gathered to witness that he is truly gone. He spreads his hands in one last loving appeal. The instant response is agitated signals conveying to him their unchanged demand that he go.
What more can he do?
Nothing! Every possible source open to him to save those people is exhausted and with the heaviest of hearts he turns his car into the distance and is gone forever. Several hours pass and then the atomic fireball blasts the village and the villagers out of existence.
No one can say that this man is a destroyer. He acted out the character of a saviour only. He could not and did not save them because they would not let him.
This is the true picture of the character of God.
(From p129-130 of Behold Your God by F. T. Wright)
That story is illustrative of this verse:
“He said furthermore unto me, Son of man, seest thou what they do? even the great abominations that the house of Israel committeth here, that I should go far off from my sanctuary? but turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations.” (Eze 8:6)
It is speaking of the actions of man causing God to leave. Could we even say forcing Him against His will? Some versions are stronger:
“And he said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations that the house of Israel are committing here, to drive me far from my sanctuary? But you will see still greater abominations.'” (Eze 8:6, RSV)
What is driving Him away is not literal force on man’s part (How could he?) but God being “forced” because of His commitment to not force Himself on others but to (consistent with love) always honor man’s free will choices.
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